Author J.A. Huss is the author of New Adult Science Fiction novels and a blogger at New Adult Addiction. Like me, she's passionate about the rise in the NA genre. But, not just that, we both hope to see the sci-fi/ fantasy side of New Adult rise in 2013, since 2012 was the year of NA Contemporary.
The New Adult market is taking off in a big way. The smash hits Easy, Beautiful Disaster, and Losing It have proven, without a doubt, that readers want main characters that are making that all-important transition into adulthood. Each of the characters in these books mentioned are in college, each is looking for that elusive something more, and each has to learn to deal with life in real-time, typically without the sage advice of the people who used to take care of them. All of those stories are compelling – that’s why they’re not only popular, they’re highly-rated as well.
But what we might be lacking is a clear definition of what NA literature really is. You’re not going to get that from me – I’m not an expert. I blog about and write what I consider to be New Adult, but that in no way makes it definitive. But one thing I think we might all be able to agree on is that above all, new adult stories are about making choices and learning to deal with the consequences of these choices.
Consequences, then. That’s what, in my opinion, separates new adult from young adult. Young Adult novels often, not always, but often, deal with short-term problems and solutions, and are based on the reality that whoever has been taking care of you your entire life is still there. (Even if they are lurking under the surface in the guise of jobs that take them away from home for long spans of time. ;))
New Adult is the exact opposite. It’s an unfamiliar world filled with new rules, transitions, and long-term consequences.
And hopefully - some regret.
What’s a journey into adulthood without regret?
Let’s face it, new adults make a lot of mistakes and some of them absolutely should cause second-guessing as they move forward. I think the NA market is new enough that we (NA authors) are still finding our sea legs, we’re still checking things out, trying to get a grip on what this demographic is looking for in a story, and how best to deliver that in terms of characterization and plot.
And some of it, like college life, is universal. It’s safe (in terms of marketability). But once we get this safe stuff out of our system, I’d like to see more new adult authors add another dimension to the genre.
This is our break-out chance. This is the perfect opportunity to define what New Adult is and where it can go, lest we fall prey to the unraveling of other “pop-genres” such as cyberpunk. People still like cyberpunk, I’m one of them, but there was no clear road forward into the future - there was no sustainability of the genre. It was an 80’s idea really, and that’s pretty much where it stayed, because no one was really interested in redefining it once the whole “Let’s hack our bodies with computers” phase faded.
Let’s not allow New Adult to be like cyberpunk.
As an addendum to that, I’d also like to offer up another caution for the road forward. Let’s not allow NA to be the big sister to YA, either. Let’s do more than just change the age and setting of the main characters and slap a New Adult label on it.
In Easy, the main character is dealing with the issues of rape, regret, and mistrust. In Beautiful Disaster the main character is dealing with starting over – a new life where past regrets and bad decisions have a funny way of coming back to haunt you. In Losing It the main character is desperate to cast aside the one thing that anchors her new adult self to her young adult life.
People are buying and enjoying these books for a reason – these authors took chances.
I hope that in my own writing I’ll create characters that make a ton of mistakes, who choose the wrong road at least half the time, and who might even be turning down a good thing here and there just so they can look back and say – I totally screwed that up. (But boy, did I ever learn a lesson!)
New Adult as a genre is up for grabs, so let’s do it up big. Let’s take chances. Let’s redefine it at every opportunity. Let’s make it last.
What do you think makes a book New Adult?